Friday, August 5, 2011

No Child Left Behind (Even When They Should Be)

There is a growing adults only movement spreading throughout the world. Restaurants are starting to prohibit small children. Hotels, movie theaters, even airlines are getting in on the act.

Some parents are crying discrimination over the fact that someone might prevent them from bringing Little Johnny to the midnight showing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 7. But here's the thing about banning children -- if parents can't or won't do the discriminating, businesses will.

You see, back in the day, parents understood that children are not miniature adults. Not only that, but they had the good sense not to bring their two-year-old to The Plaza Hotel for brunch, and, if for some emergency reason Junior had to accompany his parents, he knew to keep his lips zipped or he'd be whisked out to the curb faster than he could say "Mine!". Now, since parents generally feel that their darling little tots have a right to accompany them everywhere and a right to act however they want and bother whomever they want, businesses are responding by setting their own boundaries.

Rightfully so. When we lose the ability to discern what is appropriate and what is not, we lose privileges. This is not discrimination, it's common sense. If parents cannot understand that symphony concerts are not suited to those who make a habit of taking a morning splash in the toilet, concert halls should be allowed to prohibit the precious little ankle biters from entering the place.

As for restricted sections on airplanes or trains, I think they are a great idea. As a mom who just spent a 1.5 hour round trip on a train trying unsuccessfully to shush her screaming babies, I would have welcomed the idea of a cabin for adults only. This would have been a great relief not only to me, but to the group of irritated retirees seated across from me who used the entire trip to talk loudly about my lack of parenting skills. "Why are those babies still crying? They must be hungry or thirsty," they said, as if they hadn't just observed me spending the last ten minutes offering my children every single thing in my diaper bag to no avail. "I bet they are sick. She should change their diapers. Oh, I wish she had gotten off at the last stop." News flash, folks, so did I. But sometimes babies will just cry no matter what the parents do. And for those people who can't or don't want to sympathize, an adults-only section would be ideal. Really, no one wanted to box up my children and ship them in the cargo section more than I did, but I had to ride the train, and I couldn't exactly jump off mid-journey, so I had to manage as best I could. Wouldn't it have been great if I could have gotten rid of the childless adults and their snarky comments? We all could have been happier.

Frankly, I hate traveling with small children. And I hate traveling with other peoples' small children. Airline travel, especially, is miserable. By the time you pay your life savings, get through security, and get on a plane that is actually cleared to go somewhere, you are ready to swear off flying for the rest of your life.  Add in some screaming children and pretty soon the entire plane is volunteering to take up skydiving. So, I understand why airlines are beginning to see potential dollar signs in child-free sections of a plane. No children? Yes, please. I don't even want to be with my own kids.

On the other side of the issue, I would love to see (and I bet we will see) airlines create "family friendly" sections of planes where families could gather without having to worry about the cranky businessman seated in seat C12.

Children are not adults and should not expect to have all the privileges or opportunities connected with age-earned maturity. And parents should not demand those privileges as if there were some inalienable right to take their children wherever they want.

It's high time we started leaving our children behind on some occasions and demanding better behavior from them when they are allowed to accompany us. I, for one, am glad to see some businesses are wising up. It's as a mother of three small children that I say this to child-free businesses:

Discriminate away.


Suzanne Lucas said...

What I want is a child only section that I can shunt my kids in and then I can ride in peace.

And I say this as a woman who spent 8 hours on trains today with two children who seemed determined to outdo each other with their obnoxiousness.

lori said...

With the impending nuptials, Aaron and I have been having this dicussion often lately as well. How, exactly, do we welcome our friends and family with ill-behaved children to celebrate our wedding and leave the little ones at home? I'd prefer not to have to spend my evening trying to keep other people's children from running into the street...

MyDonkeySix said...

Very well said and I totally agree. How sad it is that business (and schools) are having to step in and set limits when parents won't. And I HATE traveling with kids. I love them, but not traveling with them.

Bonnie said...

Suzie, sign me up for that! That would be awesome!

Lori, that is a dilemma. You don't want to offend people, but you also don't want their unruly children running down the aisle during the ceremony. If you invite me to your wedding I promise not to bring my kids. Seriously, that's what babysitters are for.